Risk Assessment

Posted on Sunday, 23rd Jul, 2017 at 07:49:57 PM
Risk is the possibility that an event will occur with harmful outcomes for a particular person or others with whom they come into contact.

Risk factors are those things that are identified in the childs circumstances or environment that might constitute a risk, a hazard or a threat. The more risk factors present (or the more serious one single factor is) then the greater the risk of harm.

The aim should be to:

Reduce risk and make children safe;
Empower children and parents;
Understand an individuals strengths;
Know what has worked or not worked in the past and understanding why;
Be positive about potential risks;
Develop a trusting working relationship;
Work in partnership with parents and children;
Help children and parents to access opportunities and take worthwhile chances, but realistic that it might not achieve the desired outcome;
Make decisions based on all the choices available and accurate information.

Measuring the level of risk is crucial to determining both the need for intervention, support and protection as well as shaping an appropriate response to identified needs within a timely manner. Professionals have to make difficult judgements in seeking the right balance between ensuring that responses are proportionate and enabling children and families to participate and have control over their lives whilst also ensuring that they are free from harm, exploitation and abuse.

It is important to acknowledge that risks cannot necessarily be eliminated, but they can be managed and reduced. Risk management should therefore be understood as risk reduction, with no situation considered entirely risk free. There is no definitive, fail-safe method of predicting risk of harm to children and young people. Risk assessment matrices and check lists can be helpful in guiding understanding but they cannot be absolutely relied upon to provide definitive answers to levels of risks faced by children.

Framework for Risk Assessment.
Stage 1 - Gather Information;
Stage 2 - Assess Harm and Risk of Harm;
Stage 3 - Decide the Response;
Stage 4 - Decide the Outcome;
Stage 5 - Review Risk Assessments During On-Going Intervention.

The framework is cyclical, highlighting the need for continual review of all assessment and care plan outcomes through analysis of new information and evidence, while incorporating changes that have occurred for the child and family as a result of intervention or due to other factors.

To complete a balanced assessment, risk factors cannot be considered in isolation - they must be assessed in conjunction with identifiable protective factors. These protective factors can influence the direction or strength of the interaction between risk factors and the decision as to the appropriate response or outcome.

However, where protective factors are identified within a family, they must be verified or checked before they can be assessed as mitigating or reducing the identified risks. Accepting what a parent or relative describes as a protective action without verification may result in a child being placed at further risk of harm.

In assessing protective factors there is a need to differentiate between:

Factors which may provide immediate safety for the child, but do not decrease the overall and on-going risk of harm (for example, the child staying elsewhere, away from the risk, temporarily);
Factors which reduce the overall risk of harm for the child and therefore influence the decision about intervention (for example, the continued and verified presence of a protective adult/parent/family member in the household).

Comprehensive information, and knowledge and understanding of both risk and protective factors is required to analyse what balance or interplay of risk and protective factors exists for a child. The interplay of these factors is analysed during the assessment stage.

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